[b-hebrew] Genesis 3:15 and order of ideas

Bryant J. Williams III bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Tue Jan 8 01:45:19 EST 2008

Dear Gary,

I refer you to TWOT, Vol. 1, pp 252, zera'

    "This noun is used 224 times. Its usages fall into four basic semantic
categories:    1. The time of sowing, seetime; 2. the seed as that which is
scattered or as the product of what is sown; 3. the seed as semen and 4. the
Seed as the offspring in the promised line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or in
other groups separate from this people of promise.

The primary maning comes from the realm of agriculture. Seedtime or sowing, as
over against the time of harvest, will recur according to a promised pattern
which God guaranteed to Noah after the flood (Gen 8:22; cg. Lev 36:5)."

The above article also refers to #'s2 & 3 above, but it is what is mentioned for
#4 that is pertinent for this discussion.

    "The most importanttheological usageis found in the fourth categor.
Commencing with Gen 3:15, the word "seed" is regularly used as a collective noun
in the singular (never plural).  This technical term is an important aspect of
the promise doctrine, for Hebrew never used theplural of this root to refer to
"oosterity" or "offspring." The Aramaic tagums pluralize therm occasionally,
e.g. the Tagum of Gen 4:10, but Aramaic also limits itself to the singular in
the passages dealing with the promised line. Thus the word designates the whole
line of descendants as a unit, yet it is deliberately flexible enough to denote
either one person who epitomizes the whole group (i.e. the man of promise
ultimately Christ), or the many persons in that whole line of natural and/or
spiritual descendants.

    "Precisely so in Gen 3:15. One such seed is the line of the woman as
contrasted with the opposing seed which is the line of Satan's followers. And
then surprisingly the text announces a male descendant who will ultimately win a
crushing victory over Satan himself."

The article then proceeds to show how this continues from Eve through the
Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants with references included. It finally shows also
the references to the Messiah In Psalms, II Samuel 7 and II Samuel 22:52.

Rev. Bryant J. Williams III
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Gary Dikeman" <grbike at sbcglobal.net>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, January 07, 2008 7:04 PM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Genesis 3:15 and order of ideas

> So far no one has proven that the "seed" of the serpent of Genesis 3:15 does
not exist. Perhaps we should focus more on the subject "seed" so that we might
reach a conclusion. The real question at this point is whether the Hebrew word
zera is meant to convey the idea of offspring, or at least whether or not this
is the sole intent of the word as used here. The answer to this question depends
on several other considerations. The first consideration concerns the parties to
the conflict which is here foretold. The narrator of Genesis 3 clearly suggests
the presence of an actual "serpent". If we stay within the confines of the book
of Genesis he compares this "serpent" with all the other beasts of the field
which YHWH had made. Focusing on this aspect first of all, the question should
be faced: does the word zera indicate "offspring".
> The Lexicon informs us that the Old Testament uses zera very infrequently for
the offspring of animals. One instance listed is Gen. 7:3, but this passage is
hardly a convincing illustration of the point at issue. The purpose for taking
the animals into the ark was not actually to keep their offspring alive. This
offspring was not yet present at the time these words were spoken. How could it
have been kept alive in the ark? Some modern translations have sensed this
problem and have avoided the word "seed" or "offspring" altogether at this
point: RSV, "to keep their kind alive"; JB, "to propagate their kind." I believe
that an appeal to Gen. 7:3 to prove that zera occasionally is used as
"offspring" in the case of animals is not a strong one.
> Another point to be considered is whether the story of the fall suggests the
presence of more than a mere animal. If the story does suggest the presence of
demonic force acting behind and through the serpent, how does this affect the
question of the meaning of zera? As to the presence of a force other than a mere
animal in man's temptation, I believe that as one reads Genesis 3 one does
indeed become conscious of such a force. There is a diabolical subtlety in the
serpent's suggestions which points to a sinister background to his words. As
such this poses no great problem. It only points to the complexity of the
meaning of zera: literal "offspring" in the case of the woman as well as the
> If we step outside the confines of the book of Genesis; the word zera which
plays a definite role at this point, one can find a definition given by the
Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon of 1828: semen virile; children, posterity; a child;
a race, tribe, people. Passages listed include Prov. 11:21; Jer. 2:21; Mal.
2:15; Is. 1:4; cf. Is. 65:23; 61:9; 65:9. Newer translations have captured this
aspect of the word zera quite admirably. Thus Prov. 11:21b is rendered by JB as
follows: "but the race of the virtuous will come to no harm" (lit.: the zera of
the virtuous). RSV renders the same phrase simply: "but those who are righteous
will be delivered." Similarly JB translates Is. 65:23 as follows: "for they will
be a race blessed by Yahweh, and their children with them." This passage makes
quite clear that the word zera may be distinguished from "offspring" (ASV
renders: "for they are the seed of the blessed of Jehovah, and their offspring
with them").
> If this meaning of zera would play any role at all in Gen.3:15 then one might,
while retaining something of the "offspring" notion, understand the two "seeds"
to stand for two "races," two "communities," each marked by a moral quality.
These communities are headed up by two distinct principals, the one principal
being the woman, the other the serpent, each of which had just been set at
enmity with the other by YHWH himself. Upon this view both of these "seeds"
could be found among the children of men. This would then alleviate the
difficulty of having to take the word literally in the one instance and
figuratively in the other.
> The Greek word for "seed" (sperma) being a neuter, the Septuagint could have
followed this up with a neuter (auto). Apparently it felt the personal reference
at this point to be strong enough to choose autos instead. And, indeed,
something of the personal next to the collective does play a role in this
> Since zera, whether taken as "community," "race," or as "offspring," involves
a plurality, the translation "they" can certainly be defended. It need not
detract from the broadly messianic understanding of the passage.
> If we continue to remain within the confines of the book of Genesis the
"serpent" can not be identified as anything other than a pre-Adamic being
capable of producing offspring.
> G. Dikeman
> Houston, TX
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